With double, Palmeiro joins elite hitters' club

July 16, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - The emotionless cucumber-cool ballplayer, the man who never gets too high or too low, sat in the visitors' dugout with a towel draping his face.

His chest heaved while he held that towel tightly to his mug, experiencing the most private of moments just minutes after being saluted by thousands of fans for making baseball history. On a breezy overcast night at Safeco Field, with cameras flashing throughout the stands, Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro lined a fifth-inning double into the left-field corner against Seattle starter Joel Pineiro.

At 11:26, Eastern time last night, Palmeiro stopped at second base, slapped his hands together and sighed.

He had just become the 26th player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and the fourth to collect 3,000 hits and 500-plus home runs, joining Hall-of-Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

The Orioles, lining the top steps during the at-bat - Palmeiro's third of the game - jumped in unison as the ball landed in the corner. The team leader, Miguel Tejada, and manager Lee Mazzilli started to run onto the field, motioning for the team to join them.

For three minutes, the 39,044 fans at Safeco stood on their feet and cheered as the center-field screen burst with video fireworks. Palmeiro hugged every teammate and his two sons, who have been bat boys for the team this summer.

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